“Empire” returned with a whole mess of drama Wednesday. And no, we’re not even talking about Jussie Smollett’s real-life legal situation.
Episode 510, titled “My Fault is Past,” was the first new installment to air since the midseason finale on Dec. 5.
That also makes it the first new episode since Smollett reported being attack by two men in Chicago on Jan. 29, was charged with filing a false police report for that same incident on Feb. 21, and then indicted on 16 felony counts by a grand jury last week. He is set to appear in court tomorrow.
But setting aside all of that stuff going on with Smollett, for those of you wondering, here’s what his on-screen alter ego, Jamal — the openly gay son of Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) — was doing on “Empire” tonight.
Before we begin, allow us to remind you that the show ended its winter finale with a big cliffhanger in which Jeff Kingsley (A.Z. Kelsey) told Cookie, Andre (Trai Byers), Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) and Jamal that he is Lucious’ son and a flash-forward showing Andre flatlining in front of his parents, giving fans more fuel for their theories about who is in that casket in all those other flash-forward scenes we’ve seen this season.
OK, now tonight’s episode picked up right where that one left off, with Cookie and Lucious discussing how they still need to take down Kingsley and take back Empire.
Then they have a “grownup talk” with their boys, telling them Kelly Patel is looking to sell his stake in Empire, as the stock is currently tanking due to the bad press from the data mining story Jamal’s fiance, Kai (Toby Onwumere), recently published. They need to prove Lucious is innocent and throw it all on Kingsley and he wants Jamal to get Kai’s help in this.
“Here we go, just going back to something that brings out the worst in us,” Jamal says and tells his parents they need to do this on their own if they want to go back to Empire, a place that “destroyed” them.
When Cookie and Lucious leave, Jamal turns to his brothers to discuss the elephant in the room: Kingsley.
Hakeem wants to go “beat his ass” but Jamal says “we ain’t gonna beat nobody’s ass.”
Then, Jamal goes to meet with Kai to see if they can work things out after their fight on the last episode, with Jamal worried about how Kai’s story is affecting the Lyons. He asks for Kai’s help after all, which doesn’t seem like an option as he’s off to London and wants Jamal to pick between him and his parents. But Jamal reminds Kai he is also hurting Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) in all this, who is accused of being part of the data mining in the lawsuit that has been filed against Empire.
Later, Becky and Jamal are drowning their sorrows over all the drama and he tries to make her feel better with a new song he’s just made. He is going to give it to Devon to perform, but Becky says he needs to make it a Jamal single. Then she decides to take him some place that’s going to cheer him up: Urban Arts High School.
Jamal performs his new song at his alma mater, singing these lyrics: “I’m probably, I’m probably gonna do some bad/I’m probably, probably gone have to fight/But know there ain’t nothin’ that I can’t have/Eventually I will be alright.”
He tells the kids he doesn’t know “if you guys have been reading the blogs” and “all that foolishness” that’s out there about his family right now and asks them to “stick together.” Then he and Becky go off much happier than before.
Jamal then joins Andre and his parents at Empire headquarters, where Lucious and Cookie announce they are joining forces with Kelly Patel and returning to Empire after clearing Lucious’ name in the data-mining scandal. Everyone starts shouting “to the Empire!” and Cookie pauses to say they are in service to the fans now, but Lucious cuts in to bring back the party vibe.
Then Jamal is shocked to learn from Lucious that the they were able to clear his name thanks to Kai. Jamal finds Kai and thanks him, but Kai reveals the way they got the evidence to clear Lucious’ name was by dangling one of Kai’s sources out a window until he handed it over.
Kai tells Jamal violence doesn’t scare him, but the Lyons do. He reminds him they were so happy in London away from Jamal’s family and asks him to “just go home” with him.
And Jamal tells Kai if he’s going to be with him, then he has to understand all of him and that he’s a Lyon and he’s done apologizing for that. Then Jamal gives Kai back his engagement ring and Kai leaves and Jamal breaks down crying and kicks over his keyboard.
The episode ends with Jamal playing a piano and singing over his parents fighting about what Empire has done to their family. And this is before anyone has even found out that Andre had some unexplained nosebleed and passed out on his drive home.
“Empire” airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.